Are You Suffering from Eye Allegies?
If you find you regularly have eyes that are itchy, red, burning or tearing up, then you may be one of millions of American’s that suffer from eye allergies (otherwise known as allergic conjunctivitis). Thankfully there are a large range of treatments available to help alleviate your suffering.
What are eye allergies?
An allergic reaction takes place when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized to something within its environment that poses no problem for most people, but that sends your immune system into overdrive and as such, creates a heap of not-so-nice symptoms for you to contend with. Sometimes these symptoms might present as skin rashes or sneezing, or sometimes they can affect your eyes.
What are the symptoms of eye allergies?
The symptoms of eye allergies can vary tremendously, from a slight twitch or redness right through to inflammation and impaired vision. Not only can each individual suffer from different symptoms, but the scale of those symptoms may also vary based upon the severity of the reaction. However, typical symptoms can include:
A clear, watery discharge
Aversion to bright light
A thick mucus
A scratchy feeling
A feeling like you have something in your eye
Many people who suffer from allergic conjunctivitis also find that they also suffer from nasal allergies and also experience symptoms such as sneezing, sniffling, a blocked or runny nose, and potentially sinus-related problems.
What triggers eye allergies?
That can be numerous causes of eye allergies, but they typically fall into three categories.
Irritants: for example: perfume, cosmetics, tobacco smoke and exhaust fumes
Indoor allergens: for example, dust mites, pet hair and mold
Outdoor allergens: for example, pollen from grass, weeds and trees
Who is at risk of eye allergies?
Allergies can affect absolutely anyone, but they are more common in children and young adults, probably because their immune system is still developing.
If you suffer from other allergies, you are significantly more likely to develop allergic conjunctivitis too. Research from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has found that allergies affect around 30% of adults, 40% of children and often run in families.
How is allergic conjunctivitis diagnosed?
If you suspect that you may be suffering from allergic conjunctivitis, the first thing you should do it to make an appointment with your optometrist. He/she will be able to examine your eyes and ask you about any previous history of allergies. If you have redness in the white of your eye, or small bumps inside your eyelids, then your optometrist may use these symptoms to make a diagnosis. However, she/she may also suggest one or more of the following tests:
An allergy skin test, which exposes your skin to particular allergens in order to see how your body reacts/responds.
A blood test to see if your body is producing proteins or antibodies to protect itself against particular allergens.
A scraping of your conjunctival tissue, so that your optometrist can examine your white blood cells. This is because there are certain white blood cells, known as eosinophils, which become activated when you have an allergic reaction.
What treatment can I expect?
In most cases, treatment for eye allergies takes the form of both preventative measures and mild medical intervention.
Minimize your exposure to allergens
The biggest step you can take to help treat allergic conjunctivitis is to minimize your exposure to the allergens that cause it. Examples include, keeping the doors/windows shut to avoid the spread of pollen, use an indoor air purifier, keep your home a dust-free zone, and avoid exposure to harsh, unnatural chemicals as much as possible. Identifying which allergens are causing the reaction will make it much easier to limit your exposure, so you should consider asking your doctor for allergy testing, particularly if your symptoms impact on your day to day life.
There are a large variety of eye-allergy medications available from your local pharmacy. These include oral medication (antihistamines) as well as eye drops, and they may relieve a large number of your symptoms. However, if over-the-counter remedies are not helping then you can speak to your optometrist or doctor with regards to prescription treatment.
Also known as immunotherapy, allergy shots help to improve an individual’s intolerance to the substance that causes the allergic reaction. Tiny amounts of the allergen are injected, gradually increasing the dose over several months until your body is able to cope.
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, or would like more information on eye allergies, please speak to Dr. Howard Kornstein who would be happy to assist!